RARE BIRD

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

RARE BIRD
A Memoir of Loss and Love
By Anna Whiston-Donaldson

OVERVIEW: In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother's story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. With this unforgettable account of a family's love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us-beyond all earthly circumstances―safe.

AUTHOR: Anna Whiston-Donaldson is a popular blogger at An Inch of Gray. A graduate of Wake Forest university, she taught high-school English for six years before becoming a full-time mom and writer. She lives with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Margaret, in suburban Washington, DC.

MY REVIEW: This was a difficult book for me to read and review. I have had a hard time reading it because it is so sad. I am finding it difficult to review because of mixed emotions. Anna is a splendid writer and her story needed to be told and needs to be read. But it is a story of loss and that makes it difficult to read. However, the book is also filled with hope and love and we desperately need that. I recommend this book and agree with author Gretchen Rubin, Rare Bird is "Profound, tender, honest―and utterly unforgettable."

Rare Bird is the story of how twelve-year-old  Jack was swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How did God let this happen? How can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.

Glennon Doyle Melton, founder of Momastery.com. called the book "A masterpiece of hope, love, and the resilience and ferocity of the human spirit." If someone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one, I recommend you put a copy of this book in their hands.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

TABLES INTHE WILDERNESS

Thursday, October 02, 2014


TABLES IN THE WILDERNESS
A memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
By Preston Yancey

OVERVIEW: In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey arrived at Baylor University in the autumn of 2008 with his life figured out. Then God slowly allowed Preston's secure world to fall apart until every piece of what he thought was true was lost: his church, his life of study, his political leanings, his girlfriend, his best friend...and his God. It was the loss of God in the midst of all the godly things that changed Preston forever. This is the story of God found, lost, and found again.

AUTHOR: Preston Yancy is a lifelong Texan-raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andres university in Scotland before returning to the States. He and his wife, Hilary, currently live in Waco, Texas, where Hilary is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Baylor.

MY REVIEW: The sub-title of this book, A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again is what caught my attention. Having been a Senior Minister of the Church of Christ/Independent Christian Church for forty-seven years I have a great interest in Christians and their individual faith. In this book Preston tells his story. And an interesting story it is. Very interesting!

Preston's story is liberal. Mine is more conservative. Therefore, I had a lot to learn from him. And I did! Yes, I was uneasy when reading about his life at Baylor where he took mostly classes that I consider liberal. When in college I never had the kind of classes Preston chose because I had no interest in them. But I was interested in learning about the mindset of his professors and what he was taught. Again, his story interested me---but troubled me.

My review as far as the value of this book is concerned is not about my feelings about Preston's theology and worldview. I recommend this book to every Christian who has struggled with their own faith or has been concerned with the faith of a friend. I'm not sure you will find answers here for anything. But I believe you will be challenged to think about this subject more deeply than you have ever thought about it before. And I believe we all need to be challenged to think seriously about our faith, theology and worldview.

Preston Yancey is a splendid writer. His book is written on a high intellectual level. You will be caught up in his story. I received the book in the mail one afternoon and finished reading it the next afternoon. It's hard to put down.

(I received this book from Booklook Bloggers Book Review Bloggers Program for a fair and honest review.)

"WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHURCH CHANGES" BY JOE MCKEEVER---MY RESPONSE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This post is my response to Joe McKeever's article posted on Face Book, "What To Do When Your Church Changes." I was amazed at the many comments he received and how many different views were expressed. These comments convinced me that we will never all reach agreement on this.

I am not against change. However, I am not in favor of ALL change.

Every church that isn't striving to be a mega-church is not dying.

There is a place for, and a need for smaller churches that have a close, Christian family feel. As they grow too large for that intimate feeling they can plant a new congregation and keep growing and going.

The church does not have to tear down or remodel their traditional building to make it look secular like a modern shopping mall in order to reach non-Christians.

The Scriptures instruct Christians to assemble on a regular basis to encourage one another. That assembly is for worship and so it is going to be a religious service and we should not try to hide that purpose by disguising it in secular garb and jargon.

The church should be evangelistic but the Sunday morning worship service is not the time for that or so much so that it needs to become more secular than religious. Let the church be the church on a daily basis and like the early church described in Acts 2 souls will be added.

McKeever states in his article that Rick Warren and Andy Stanley and the churches they are with will always be changing. And so they should. They were never traditional. We need churches out on the cutting edge reaching those who cannot be reached by the traditional church. But we do not need to "kill" a great traditional church by making changes it is not ready to make and doesn't need to make just in order to be for change.

We need to stop accusing Christians who oppose changes they consider radical and not needed as being against all change.

Change is the motto of our President and government. I am not against all changes in government but I am strongly against some changes. But that doesn't make me narrow minded and against change.

In a "nut shell" my convictions are that change is good---but not all change. A traditional church that is not dead should not be destroyed in order to rebuild it into a less religious environment so as to appeal to a secular society. I believe this so strongly that I believe that any preacher or group of elders that do this will give account for it on the day of judgment. If a person desires to be with a less traditional church they can join one or plant one of their own. But do not tear apart Christ's church, which is His Body.

THE SOUTHERN FOODIE'S GUIDE TO THE PIG

Friday, September 19, 2014


THE SOUTHERN FOODIE'S GUIDE TO THE PIG
A Culinary Tour of the South's Best Restaurants & the Recipes that Made Them Famous
By Chris Chamberlain

OVERVIEW: From chops to loins, belly to bacon, and every complementary side dish in between, Chris Chamberlain's culinary curiosity has once again yielded the ultimate field guide to the South's storied gastronomic landscape. In this book he explores the region's best sources of pork perfection. The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig dishes up both generations-old and newfangled recipes, weaving together a story of the South's longstanding love affair with pork and those well-loved accompaniments that complete the meal. State by state, you'll uncover the secrets of the region's best chefs, pit masters, and hog farmers. (Adapted from the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Chris Chamberlain is a food and drink writer based out of Nashville, TN. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene and Their "Bites" food blog as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. He is also the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com, a national website dedicated to "Drinking, Eating, and Living the Way a Man Should." He has written about Southern food and drink for local Palate, Relish, Taste of the South, Julep, the Bourbon Review, the Southern Foodways Alliance's Gravy newsletter, and as a kitchen gadget reviewer at www.geardiary.com.

MY REVIEW: Wow! Wow! Wow! Yes, I realize this may not be the most mature way to begin a review. But I have really been impressed with this book. I like it a lot. My first Wow was when I opened it and thumbed through it looking at the great pictures. My second Wow was when I looked at the table of contents. And my loudest Wow came when I started reading the recipes. When the book came in the mail and I took it out of the box, I said to my wife, "This is my kind of book."

Part of the long title, sub-title I guess, is: How To Select, Prepare, Cook, And Enjoy Everything But the Oink. Does it actually do all of that? You know, I think it does. I really do.

I haven't tried any of the recipes yet but I know the one I am going to try first. It's Chicken Fried Pork Chops From Delta Bistro. If it is half as good as it looks in the pictureWOW!

If you don't like pork, don't buy this book. But if you do this is the book for you because that's what it is all aboutPORK.

(I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good is the title of Jan Karon's new book.

After a nine--year absence from publishing, Jan is revisiting the iconic community of Mitford, North Carolina. Fans are eager to be brought up to date with changes in the sleepy mountain village.

The title of the book is what caught my attention.

I immediately thought to myself, "Yes, that's what everybody wants. Is to be somewhere safe with somebody good."

It's a rare, overcast morning here in the Phoenix area. Rain is moving in. A tropical storm off the coast is pushing rain into the valley.

My thoughts turn to autumn and cooler weather, the fireplace and a good book.

My mind is also filled with thoughts of life in general.

Life is marching on. Relatives were here for a few days and have now gone home. We won't see them again for several months. Some of us are elderly and won't be around too long. All my brothers and sisters are gone and I am the last man standing on that side of the family.

I get lonely at times but I am never alone. God is always present.

I receive great comfort from having my wife and children with me. I think of them when I think of Jan's book title, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good.

But even above and beyond them is the feeling I get from knowing God is with me.

He gives real meaning to the thought: SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD!

MONDAY MORNING MONSOON MADNESS

Monday, September 08, 2014



The greater Phoenix area was hit by a monster today.

History was recorded.

A summer monsoon moved in along with the remnants of a hurricane.

Freeways were closed. Streets were flooded. Schools were closed. Many stayed home from work.

Two dozen cars were stalled, flooded and floating around in just one place on a freeway.

I woke up at 2:45 with wind and rain beating against our bedroom windows.

Charlotte and I both stirred, grunted, touched, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Around 7:00 we walked into the kitchen and looked outside.

The pool was full. The patio and yard were flooded. The weather people on television were talking like politicians. We were making history.

This is the most rain EVER in such a short period of time.

The rain has stopped----for now. The sun is shining.

We needed the rain. We just didn't need this much at one time.

Things are really going to bloom out and be beautiful now.

Weeds? Oh yes, there will be weeds----lots of them.

I'll slowly but surely kill them.

I'm thankful to God for the rain, sun and the beauty that follows.

A SUMMER SUNDAY IN SCOTTSDALE


We began with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and then we went on to "We Will Glorify," "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," and "You are My All In All."

All songs praising Jesus. Songs that I know well and love.

The powerful, encouraging message directly from the Scriptures was about listening to Jesus.

The service closed with communion.

I walked out into the morning sun feeling energized, refreshed and closer to God.

Lunch with two of my favorite women was an Italian Beef sandwich with sweet peppers.

Instead of jumping on the freeway to head home I said, "I'm not going that way today we have a tank full of gas and we are not in a hurry." We slowly meandered through a beautiful neighborhood. Charlotte said, "This is a nice drive." We didn't get home nearly as soon as we would have if we had gone on the freeway but we were more relaxed and in good spirit.

We watched some of the Diamondbacks/Dodgers game. The DBacks lost----again. We laughed and agreed, the Diamondbacks can't pitch and they can't hit.

For dinner Charlotte served up some of the best pancakes I have ever had along with bacon and coffee.

As I pulled the covers up under my chin I thanked God for many things.

This was a good day. It's been a good summer.

God is always good!

DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PEN

Monday, September 01, 2014



DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PEN
The Practice of a Writing Life
By Robert Benson

OVERVIEW: In this masterful blend of the practical and the spiritual, Robert Benson invites you into the work and rewards of a writer's life. More than a primer on effective writing, Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a winsome guide to the place in the heart where the life of the spirit meets the life of art. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Robert Benson is the author of numerous books. A retreat leader, Benson writes and speaks often on the life of prayer and contemplation, the practice of faith and spirituality, and the art and craft of writing. He is a graduate of and an adjunct faculty member for the Academy for Spiritual Formation, a program of the Upper Room. He is married to literary agent Sara Fortenberry. Benson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and he dances on the head of pen every day no matter where he happens to be.

MY REVIEW: Best-selling author, James Scott Bell calls this book a gem. And a gem it is! I agree with author Melody Carlson who said that it is a delight to read.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen is small book but packed full of advice and inspiration. This may not be a book for everyone but it is a book for anyone drawn to a life of artistic expression, like writers, artists, musicians, and painters. I, like many others, have tried my hand at writing but I am not a writer. But I found this book fascinating and inspiring. If you want to live a disciplined life, this book will help. It will help you focus and live with purpose. So I recommend this book to every person wanting to deepen his or her spiritual life. Benson is witty and wise and this book is fun to read.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

A COLD, IN ARIZONA, IN THE SUMMERTIME?

Friday, August 29, 2014



Nobody, and I mean NOBODY hates having a cold like I do.

You do?

No you don't. You just think you do.

Prove it?

Oh, I can prove it alright. Just come hang around with me for a few minutes.

You'll go away saying, "Nobody hates having a cold as much as Clif."

Who else but me gets a summer cold in a hot place like Arizona?

Well, my wife does. But she probably got it from me.

Yes, I know, I know. Arizona, summer, heat---all have nothing to do with getting or not getting a cold. I know that!

But it just doesn't seem right!

People who have colds should be found in cold places. Not here.

Get over it? Oh, I'll get over this lousy cold alright. But these thoughts I'm having about it--never.

These are my thoughts and I'm stickin' with them.

Nobody living in Arizona should get a cold in the summertime!!

BELIEVING OUT LOUD

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


BELIEVING OUT LOUD
Trading Fear And Defeat
For An Adventure With God
By Kimberly Wright

OVERVIEW: "Believing Out Loud is a bold reminder that God never intended for us to live in fear, but to trust him to lead us on an adventurous journey. using personal stories of humor and warmth, Kimberly wright both encourages and challenges you to lay your fears and past regrets at the foot of the cross and accept his calling with daring courage."
                   Rita Davenport, Nationally Recognized CSP
                   CPAE Speaker, Author, And Entrepreneur

AUTHOR: Kimberly Wright was named the 2009 National Young Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc. and is the author of Bedtime Thoughts for the Christian Mom. She earned a BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and blogs weekly at www.believingoutloud.com. She travels across the U.S. speaking at women's church retreats and conferences sharing funny and encouraging stories of hope and God's endless grace. Kimberly and her husband John have four children and make their home in Overland Park, Kansas.

MY REVIEW: This book is an incredible resource for people whose lives have been limited by fear.
Kimberly writes from experience. She knows what it is like to live with feelings of low self-worth and to be filled with fear. It is out of that experience that she has written a book that you can relate to and be inspired to move on with your life as an adventure with God.

God is the central figure in this book. Kimberly has written fifteen chapters dealing with the battle with fear and in six of them God is in the title. And God is mentioned several times in all fifteen. The sub-title of the book is, Trading Fear And Defeat For An Adventure With God. I believe all of us had rather have an adventure with God than to live in fear. This book will show you how to do that.
After you have read this book you will want to run out and share it with somebody.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

FRIED & TRUE


FRIED & TRUE
More Than 50 Recipes for
AMERICA'S BEST
Fried Chicken and Sides
Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman
Photographs by Evan Sung

OVERVIEW: Whether your prefer it cold out of the fridge or hot and crispy on a buttery biscuit. You will find your new favorite fried chicken recipe in Fried & True. Serving up more than 50 recipes for America's most decadently delicious food. Lee Schrager has left no stone unturned in his quest to find America's best fried chicken. From four-star restaurants to roadside fry shacks, you'll learn how to brine your bird, give it a buttermilk bath, batter or even double batter it, season with loads of spices, and fry it up to golden perfection.

AUTHORS AND PHOTOGRAPHER: LEE BRIAN SCHRAGER is the founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals. He is also the vice president of corporate communications and national events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America and the author of The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Lee has appeared on Today and Rachael Ray and serves on the board of directors for the Food bank for New York City. He lives in Miami and New York City.
ADEENA SUSSMAN is a food and recipe developer who has been published in Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Cooking Light, Health, Self, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, and on Epicurious.
EVAN SUNG is a prominent food, lifestyle, and travel photographer based in Brooklyn. His work appears regularly in the New York Times and he has worked on cookbooks with some of the top chefs from around the world.

MY REVIEW: Review a book about fried chicken? I didn't think so! I wondered what could be said about fried chicken that I didn't already know. I love it and have been watching it cooked and eating it all my life. But then I saw some of the pictures and read a few pages of the book and found myself saying, "Wow. This is a book I need to look into.

I haven't been disappointed. The photography is excellent, the recipes are wonderful and the reviews of the restaurants are outstanding. I will certainly be trying some of the recipes and hopefully someday I will be able to visit some of the restaurants.

If you like fried chicken, and who doesn't, you will want to get this book. You will probably end up buying a few extra copies for friends.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

ARMS OPEN WIDE

Monday, July 21, 2014



ARMS OPEN WIDE
A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence
By Sherri Gragg

OVERVIEW: With a storyteller's giftedness, Sherri Gragg transports you into life-changing moments with Jesus where you'll feel touched, healed, and spiritually blessed by the assurance that the Messiah, the Healer, the Friend is alive with you now. Experience firsthand the power and devotion of the Savior in your own life. You'll know Jesus like never before. Sherri writes in fictional narrative form while mixing biblical history with scripture, creating a setting that transforms readers back in time and places them right in Jesus’ presence. For thirty-five days readers walk with the Savior to witness miraculous healings and events, and give fresh insight into His power by thinking and feeling with people whose lives became instantly transformed by His love and grace. Readers journey with Jesus and His disciples in the most important time in history.

AUTHOR: Sherri Gragg is a nationally published writer who was a winner in the 2012 Writer’s Digest Competition (inspiration).  She discovered the beautiful Jewish roots of her Christian faith during the course of a trip to Israel, and now passionately uses her gifts of writing and teaching to share the gospel of Christ through the Middle Eastern cultural lens.  She and her husband, Michael, have five children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.

MY REVIEW: Arms Open Wide—A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence is an inviting title. I like to read it slowly and let the invitation sink into my mind. I get a mental picture of Jesus waiting with outstretched arms. I like the words of Robert Morgan: "Sherri's writings seem as if she parachuted into the middle of the Gospels, saw all the action for herself, and returned to tell us about it!

If you have ever wondered what it would have been like to witness the miraculous healing of a leper, to watch Jesus walk on water or to be in the mind of the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus, this book will help you with that. Sherri also concludes each chapter with a prayer that is helpful. She says they are simply cries of her own heart but she believes they are a little like your heart's cry too. I think they may be.

This book is small and easy to handle. Each devotion is just the right length. They can be read easily and quickly. But you will not close the book quickly. You will want to linger and meditate letting the story travel deep into you mind. This is a good book to begin OR end the day with.

(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

CURMUDGEON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AHEAD

Friday, July 11, 2014


CURMUDGEON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AHEAD
Do's And Don'ts Of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, And Living A Good Life
By Charles Murray

OVERVIEW: For those starting out in their careers—and those who wish to advance more quickly—this is a delightfully fussy guide to the hidden rules of the road in the workplace and in life. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of such national bestsellers Coming Apart and The Bell Curve (with Richard J. Herrnstein).

MY REVIEW: Charles Murray is one of my favorite writers. I love his easy style and his quick wit. He is extremely knowable about what he writes. Even though I didn't even know what a Libertarian was when I picked up his book, What It Means to Be a Libertarian, when I put it down I felt like I had received a college education on that subject. In this, his newest book The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead he writes about how to behave around the curmudgeon's you will meet if you wish to work at the senior levels of an organization. He gives many day-to-day tips for young people on what to expect at the senior level.

Charles has a lot to say about life in general. he urges us to leave home no matter what, get real jobs (not internships), put ourselves in scary situations, and watch the movie, Groundhog Day repeatedly.
"Witty, wise, and pulling no punches, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead is an indispensable sourcebook for living an adult life." He doesn't make the claim that this little book will fix all that needs fixing in life, but he thinks it might help. And it will!

(I received this book free from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)